I received this book today from a Goodreads First Read giveaway and began reading it immediately. Aside from the free copy of the advance readers' edition of the book, I have received no compensation for this review. Unfortunately for most of you, the book will not be mass published until May 2013.
The book is fast-paced with sufficient character introductions flowing with the storyline as to allow someone such as myself who had not read any others in the series to understand the motivations behind the recurring characters. The book is mottled with characters due to the scope of the story, but it is written in such a manner that it is easy to keep track of all the players. I was at first put off by the swapping between first-person and third-person narrative, but quickly found it helpful to understand the story and the perspective that was being presented.
The story was quite topical and engaging. More than a story ripped from the headlines about a cruise ship being hijacked by Somali pirates; More than a presentation on the multifaceted political structure of Somalia; This is a story told primarily from the prospective of the captives and those who are determined to rescue them at all costs. It is a perspective on the drama you would never get from the media, but would understand if you ever served in the military. The people and situations feel real and keep the reader thoroughly engaged.
As I began to read, a hole opened in the book and I fell through. I was no longer reading, but actually visualizing the actions behind every word on the page. Every sensory system shut down in the first several pages and I felt I could almost smell the smoke and sea air. It has been years since I have been this thoroughly drawn into a book. I was not able to put it down for more than fifteen minutes without coming back for more. I now look forward to going backwards and reading the remainder of Coonts' books as this was my first.
Due to the graphic nature of the violence and the emotions it brings out in characters, there are portions that will be hard for some to read. Bear in mind that this is a militaristic work of fiction. Violence is expected with such material. War is gritty and bloody. Without apology, Coonts has laid all of the grit and gore out there for us to see. But, in my opinion, it is never gratuitous nor over-the-top.
If you have read any other works by this author, read this book. If you enjoy Tom Clancy, read this book. If you have read American Sniper, read this book.